The DNAinfo archives brought to you by WNYC.
Read the press release here.

Undecided No More: How a Trip to the Ballot Box Cured My Election Anxiety

By Mark Konkol | April 6, 2015 2:56pm | Updated on April 6, 2015 4:25pm
Jesus "Chuy" Garcia and Mayor Rahm Emanuel
View Full Caption
Facebook/Getty Images

CHICAGO — Like you, I watched the TV commercials, got bombarded by Facebook posts and emails and endured three sometimes painful to watch debates leading up to Chicago’s first-ever mayoral runoff election.  

I even had a pair of one-on-one chats with our polar-opposite candidates — clout-heavy politico Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the bungalow belt outsider Cook County Board Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia — and I still counted myself among the undecided — which one pollster figured amounts to 16 percent of potential voters.

As the clock ticked closer to Election Day, I started to feel so stressed out about my indecision that I Googled my symptoms — tense shoulders from all the shrugging, an irrational fear that our town will turn into Detroit and bouts of excessive worry that living in Chicago requires being in an abusive mayoral relationship.

By Friday, I was convinced that I was suffering from what an alleged online doctor called acute anxiety syndrome.

Not feeling absolutely certain that your vote will have little effect on a mayoral election outcome is a completely new and stress-causing phenomenon for Chicagoans.

For the last 26 years — ever since former Mayor Richard Daley was first elected in 1989 — it’s been pretty much a given that the guy with the most clout and money wins.

But this historic mayoral election showdown is different.

Depending on which election fortune teller you believe, either Emanuel or Garcia could win by a slim margin. And voters like me — folks who just can’t make up their minds — are poised to be the decision-makers.

For the most part, this election pits our divided city — one for the rich, one for the poor — against itself.

Emanuel, a big-city boss tagged as a North Side elitist by his critics, gets his strongest support from the wealthiest parts of town that want a powerful mayor with the kind of clout that strikes fear in the heart of his enemies.

Garcia, an idealistic neighborhood guy criticized for skimping on details on how to fund his vague vision of a better city, is strongly backed by people who hate Emanuel the most. That includes the Chicago Teachers Union and working-class folks who believe they’ve been shortchanged by the mayor’s office for too long.

Then, there are the rest of us trying to sort through the campaign rhetoric, fear-mongering and empty promises while deciding whether the future of our city is better in the hands of the veteran bully we know or the mustachioed grandpa we don’t know.

But make no mistake, this isn’t a popularity contest.

The stress from being undecided stems from intense consideration of how Chicago’s next mayor will handle our city’s biggest troubles — the gang-fueled street violence, the looming fiscal cliff, our tumbling bond rating, underfunded public pensions and the effect his decisions will have on our property taxes.

Plus, you’ve got to think about the candidate’s position on the future of big-ticket projects that could have huge cultural impact on out town: the never-ending debate over a Downtown casino; the potential Obama Presidential Library; whether the former USX site in South Chicago will ever become our town's next great lakefront neighborhood; how long it might take to extend the CTA Red Line to the city's border; and the controversy over the proposed Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, among other important things.

More than that — especially for people who live in parts of town left to decay thanks to vanishing industry, real estate redlining and general political neglect — a voter's decision boils down to which candidate we trust to fix our inequitable school system and bridge the growing gap between the wealthy and the poor.

Ultimately, you’ve got to decide:

Do you really believe Emanuel — notorious for his Sinatra-like “I’ll do it my way” management style — when he says that this election has taught him that he needs to talk less, listen more, and he’s got to do a better job looking out for best interest of neighborhood folks — even those living in far-flung locales that tourists don’t visit?

Or do you think Garcia — whose populist anti-Rahm agenda really strikes a chord with disenfranchised Chicagoans — really has what it takes to gain the confidence of Wall Street bond analysts, attract corporate headquarters and keep the central business district’s economic engine running on all cylinders while pushing to rebuild neighborhoods as promised?

By Friday, I couldn’t stew in my own indecision any longer.  I left the office and hiked through the Loop to vote early at a pop-up polling place in the pedway at 69 W. Washington, even though I had no idea who I would pick when I got there.

Standing at the voting booth, I stared at the touch screen for what seemed like forever.

Finally, I muscled up the courage to make a decision. I checked a box, stared at the screen and just couldn’t live with it.

Something in my gut said, “Vote for the other guy.”

So, I changed my vote and hit the final button on my electronic secret ballot.

Right or wrong, I picked the guy who I think has the best shot at making Chicago — or at least the part of town I call home — a better place to live.

It was the first time I left a polling place thinking my vote for mayor really mattered, and that's a pretty powerful feeling.

So, if you, like me, have suffered from runoff anxiety due to mayoral indecision, the best and only cure I know can be found at the ballot box.

On Tuesday, I suggest you go there — and be healed.

For more neighborhood news, listen to DNAinfo Radio here: